SEVEN UP! (1964) (****)

23 05 2008

Taken at face value one might not see the significance of this film. Put in context, as the start of a continuing series, it takes on the status of an epic undertaking that Roger Ebert once called “an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium.” Directed by Paul Almond as part of the WORLD IN ACTION TV series, SEVEN UP! wasn’t intended to be the first chapter in a series. Based on the Jesuit phrase, “give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” the half-hour program was supposed to be one-off look at a group of seven year olds from different economic and social backgrounds. Original researcher Michael Apted transformed the first film into what it has become, the chronicling of the same lives every seven years since.

For this film, 21 children were chosen, but only fourteen become central subjects. John, Charles and Andrew attend the same pre-preparatory school and seem to have their lives all planned out. Suzy goes to an all girls’ school and is from a very wealthy family. Her sheltered world hasn’t only left her clueless about the world around her, but seemingly shell shocked. Jackie, Lynn and Sue are good friends from a working class neighborhood, who have no clue that they’d be consider the poor kids by others in the group. Tony is a tough kid from the East End of London, who has a girlfriend named Michelle, who he often disagrees with. Paul goes to a charity-based boarding school and his parents are divorced. Simon also goes to the charity-based boarding school and is the only non-white child in the group. Nick attends a one-room school in Yorkshire Dales and observes that he likes to go to town on holiday while city folk like to come to the country. Peter and Neil go to the same middle-class Liverpool suburban school and both want to be astronauts, but don’t think they need to go to university for that. Bruce attends a prestigious boarding school and feels that the most important thing in life is to serve God.

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